It’s the day before Thanksgiving. There’s no school today and no daycare, either, but our daughter has to work. That means Colt is with us.

It doesn’t happen often, and we’re glad to have him. But his presence makes me remember my mother. Evie Busk raised seven kids of her own, and then she helped her kids raise their kids. As in this family, she had grandkids in batches, early ones and later ones, and my mother helped with all of them.

There was a time in the mid-seventies when several of my mother’s kids–yours truly included–had marriages that had either crashed and burned or were about to. What did we do? We went home, toddlers and babies in hand.

At the time my parents were living in a three bedroom double-wide mobile home on several acres on Border Road just outside of Bisbee. I was first in the line of returning chicks, followed shortly thereafter by my younger sister. We each bought 14 x 70 single-wides and moved them onto the folks “back forty” as they called it. Not long after that, one of my younger brothers showed up with his kids as well–a four year old step-daughter and year old twins. They stayed in my parents’ two extra bedrooms.

I was selling insurance back in those days. Once I arrived in town, I immediately launched a search for a babysitter. As I prepared the text of a proposed want ad, I looked in the paper and found an ad that was almost verbatim what I had written. It came complete with a phone number, so I called it and asked if they had found a sitter. They had. Then I asked if they would give me the name of any applicants they hadn’t hired. (Why pay for an ad if you didn’t have to?) I called the woman they had rejected–too bad for them–and Delores Decker came into our lives.

Dolores was a fifty-something housewife whose husband had been involuntarily retired when the mines closed. She needed a job in the worst way, and I needed a babysitter. Dolores showed up when my kids were the only ones in the mix. As kids were added, she took them on. We all paid Dolores. Grandma was the captain of the ship, and she wouldn’t let us pay her. Somewhere we have a photo of one of those “lunches at Grandma’s” with five little tow-headed kids lined up in a row of high chairs with a dark haired five-year old seated on a regular chair nearby.

When it came time for baths, Dolores did the dunking. She would rub and scrub and shampoo that one out, lift the wet one out, hand him or her over to Grandma who did the drying and dressing while Dolores went on to the next one. At the time all those kids and grandkids came home to roost and bathe, my mother was the age I am now. I would imagine that once bath time was over and nap time started, it was a welcome respite that was all too brief.

By the way, when we all took our kids and moved on, we referred Dolores to an elderly woman from our church who was in need of caregiving. For the next five years, Dolores made it possible for that woman to stay in her own home.

So this morning, while Colt and HIS Grandpa are out in the kitchen brining the turkey, I’m sitting here being thankful for Dolores Decker, that long-ago babysitter and for MY mother–for who she was, for how she lived her life, and for the way she raised her kids.

Thanksgiving is the one day a year when I REALLY cook. Once the turkey is handled, it will be time for me to get with the pumpkin pie program. By the way, that’s something else I learned from mother. The makings for REAL pumpkin pies come from pumpkins not from cans!

We’ll have everyone here tomorrow, gathered around a very long table. We’re well beyond the high chair stage. In fact, we can now remove the step-stool from of the downstairs powder room because the kids are all tall enough now to reach the sink.

Early tomorrow I’ll make Mary Grandma’s turkey stuffing. Mary Grandma was my first mother-in-law. The first time I tasted her dressing, I was shocked to learn that turkey dressing was the one thing my own mother didn’t do well. So I guess, now that I think about it, I’m thankful for my first mother-in-law, too.

My mother always made her own lefse. I still have her lefse stick to prove it. In case you’ve never made lefse, it’s a flour-intensive process that can leave the interior of an entire house covered with a fine dusting of white stuff, and I’m not talking about snow, either. Last year I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a fan named Loren who DOES make his own lefse and who is kind enough to send some of it to me. I’m VERY thankful for that as well.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. It’s time to go rattle those pots and pans.